Read CHAPTER XLIII of Frenzied Finance Vol. 1: The Crime of Amalgamated , free online book, by Thomas W. Lawson, on ReadCentral.com.

DEGREES IN CRIME

Every profession has its social grades. Even crime is not without an aristocracy. There are as many classes of crooks as there are things to steal, and the more dangerous the theft, the more distinguished is the criminal in the eyes of his professional brethren. In the thieving fraternity the burglar and the highwayman figure as important persons, for do they not take their lives in their hands every time they “pull off” a trick? He who signs another man’s name to a check requires fine dexterity to be successful and endangers his liberty for a long term, so the forger is of high consequence. Pickpockets and sneak-thieves stake freedom on the agility of their fingers and legs, and are the small fry of the fraternity, yet figure as legitimate practitioners. But the confidence man, he who goes forth among rural communities disguised as a clergyman or doctor, and wheedles money out of some unsuspecting fellow-creature by means of the trust he has inspired, ranks low in the estimation of his plucky brethren of the jimmy and the black-jack. Force they respect; stealth they despise. The burglar is frankly a burglar; the confidence man conceals his plundering purpose under the aspect of respectability. He is doubly a knave in that he pretends to be honest.

The Utah trick performed by the “System,” as described in my last chapter, was essentially a confidence operation. The men who executed it had the reputation and appearance of honesty, and their victims were hypnotized into security by accepting standing in the community, great business prestige, and enormous wealth as guarantees of individual probity. The only capital employed in capturing three millions of “made dollars” and the control of a great corporation was respectability. I contend, then, that the magnitude and success of the deal do not make it less despicable.

Some of my readers will doubtless ask me why I so insistently repeat the details of the “System’s” criminality, which for all purposes of argument have already been sufficiently established. My answer is that repetition alone will impress people with the real character of the class of individuals with whom I deal. The mass of Americans look upon these men as great leaders, and regard their millions as monuments to their commercial genius. I am showing that this commercial genius is no better than a high talent, for financial jugglery, and that its successes are achieved by a calculated disregard of the laws of the game. The “System’s” fortunes have been won by means of marked cards and cogged dice, crooked wheels and bribed umpires in other words, by the corruption of legislatures, the undermining of competitors, the evasion of railway rates, the wrongful manipulation of stocks, the perversion of justice, by intrigue, graft, and four play. Once the people realize this, the “System” is doomed; and it is my purpose to demonstrate so clearly and forcibly the crimes of the past that the nation may be aroused not only to prevent their repetition, but to crush their rascally perpetrators as they would so many reptiles. I shall so familiarize the people with the rights to which they are properly entitled and with the outrages committed in violation of them under the guise of legitimate commerce, that they will know them as they do the common facts of their daily lives. Let any “System” attempt to interfere between a man and his Bible, his meat and bread, and his proper allowance of sleep, and there would occur an explosion fierce enough to wipe the conspirators and their plots off the face of the earth; yet it is absolutely the fact that in the past our people have suffered unwittingly much fiercer wrongs than these would be, and far more vital invasions of their rights.